Posted August 20, 2021
Ottawa City Staff released a report on Monday, August 16th 2021 detailing their recommendations on Hazelview’s Official Plan Amendment (OPA) application. Members of the Herongate ACORN Tenant Union held the first in-person chapter meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began, in Sandalwood Park in Herongate on Tuesday, August 17th. Members discussed the staff recommendations at length and unanimously voted to not support the Herongate OPA being passed through planning committee.
What are their biggest objections to the report?
- After total build out is complete, only 16% of the neighbourhood will be “affordable housing”
- However, the “affordable housing” is only affordable for those who are middle-upper income
- The “affordable” units will only be affordable for 10-20 years
- The new units will not be subject to rent control therefore rents will sky rocket after they reach their “affordability” term
- The only options for existing tenants is to either move their families into one of the current high rise apartment buildings (unacceptable for large families) or to move into one of the new units where rents will only be affordable for 10 years.
- No replacement units are being offered to previously evicted tenants who wish to return to the community
- Hazelview’s 2019 commitments to housing diversity, social enterprise,and green space are not included in the memorandum of understanding (legally binding agreement)
The two definitions of affordable housing recommended in the report are not affordable for the low-income and working class households who make up Herongate. The report defines “affordable housing” in the existing high rises as below average market rent. Yet the City of Ottawa declared a housing and homelessness emergency back in January 2020 because the market has failed to provide affordable housing! Average market rent is NOT real affordable housing. Moreover, these “affordable” units will only remain “affordable” for 20 years.
Worse is how the report describes affordability for the new units that would be constructed. New units Hazelview constructs are deemed “affordable housing” if rents are 30% of median household income in Ottawa. The median household income in Ottawa is $102,000 while the majority of tenants in Herongate earn 10%-50% of the median income! The designated “affordable housing” units in the new development will only have to meet these terms for 10 years, after which they are not subject to rent control and can be expected to skyrocket in price.
The current agreement is a rubber stamp for Hazelview’s mass redevelopment plans with next to no benefits for residents. This is why the Herongate ACORN Tenant Union is demanding that the City of Ottawa go back to the table with Hazelview and re-negotiate a deal that reflects the needs of the community. The City’s attempt to claim this plan as a victory for affordable housing and to close the chapter on the long and painful struggle in Herongate will not happen without resistance from ACORN members in the neighbourhood, tenants across the city, supporting organizations and community allies.
ACORN members in Herongate have been organizing for tenant rights in Herongate since 2007. When the mass evictions were announced in 2015, ACORN members from the neighbourhood fought to keep their homes. While the evictions still happened in February 2016, their efforts did result in some concessions for the second wave of evictions in 2018.
During this time, ACORN organizers and leaders knocked on 1000s of doors in the neighbourhood, organized tenant meetings, developed new community leaders and held direct actions to address this immediate eviction crisis as well as advocate for long term solutions like inclusionary zoning and rental replacement bylaws.
Hazelview has mass evicted over 180 primarily working class, racialized, immigrant families from the neighbourhood. Their OPA application meant that even more families would be at risk if tenants were not organized.
In the Fall of 2018, Herongate ACORN members (current tenants and those who were previously evicted) held a series of tenant meetings and came up with the following demands for any future redevelopment:
- New affordable housing units in the redevelopment must be offered to current tenants as well as the families previously evicted in 2018 and 2016 at the same rent/number of bedrooms as before.
- 25-30% affordable housing in each phase of the development with an emphasis on deep affordability
- Social enterprise and local hiring from equity seeking groups living in Herongate
- Community benefits that include a community hub with childcare space
- Annual proactive inspections by City By-law to ensure enforcement of property standards
CLICK HERE for more information.
Herongate ACORN held a virtual press conference on Thursday morning along with supportive organizations like the Ottawa District Labour Council, Integral North and Horizon Ottawa to express the community’s opposition to city staff’s recommendations.
Next, Herongate ACORN members will be preparing deputations for planning committee on August 26th along with allies and supporting organizations.
To sign up to do a deputation, CLICK HERE